Season preview

Have Norwich made the right signings? Can they avoid the bottom three? Who’s getting relegated? Will Jon and Dan fall out over Lewis Grabban? How many angry references to Chris Hughton can we fit in? Here's our season preview

Dan: Right then, Jon. So Norwich are back in the Premier League. We're kicking things off with glamorous fixtures against Palace, Sunderland and Stoke, which is what I'm sure we were all dreaming about on that famous day at Wembley. Seriously though, I'm all-aquiver and am excited about the season. How about you?

Jon: I'm itching to sit back in that itchy seat of mine. I know you're joking, but these first few games have all the hallmarks of a single column in each national newspaper – with an inch-by-inch picture of an angry looking Alex Neil – with NEIL ADAMS captioned underneath. 

I think his angry face during the match, tailed by a cheeky quip and smile at post-match interviews, will become a 'thing' this year.  The average football fan loves a panto villain; see Nigel Pearson last season.

I am looking forward to seeing how we fair though.

Dan: Pearson wasn't just a panto villain, he seems like the kind of man who regularly clears his internet search history to cover up those googles for 'how to dispose of bodies'.

I think the neutral football fan will take to Alex Neil – he has a glint in the eye, a dry sense of humour and his team strives to play good football. Essentially, we couldn't be further removed from the shell of a team we'd become under Chris Hughton, which is why I'm excited about the season.

We have one of the best, if not the best, young managers in Britain. So what could go wrong?

Are you happy with the signings we've made so far? Dorrans, Mulumbu, Brady, Wisdom, possibly Mbokani...

Jon: You clearly haven't seen many pantos, then. We should do that this Christmas. That'll be fun. The Little Yellow Bird Christmas Panto.

Yeah, I'm satisfied with the signings at this stage. I, alongside most Norwich fans, hope for a marquee signing. I always hope we break or smash or utterly destroy our transfer record at every signing we make.

With great Wisdom comes great responsibility. He's got mixed reviews. The "Well, Liverpool extended his contract for four years so he must be good" argument doesn't fit with me. Clubs do that to make sure they get £2.5m when they offload him to Derby or... maybe us at the end of the season.

Who else have West Brom banished we can have?

Dan: Ron Atkinson?

Jon: Yeah why not? We do need someone to be inside Captain Canary.

Which is the most disturbing thought I've had today. 

Dan: The good thing about Wisdom is he's quick, and not short – that's an immediate advantage over Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett and Michael Turner. Or at least it would be an advantage if it didn’t seem as if he’s probably going to be competing for right-back, rather than centre-back. Also, Tony Pulis didn't rate him, and I always rate players Tony Pulis doesn't rate. I’m with plenty of other Norwich fans on this: we need a quality centre-back or things could turn a little nasty for John Ruddy.

Brady and Mulumbu are clever signings – Brady is a proper ball-player. He might not ghost into the area like Bradley Johnson does, but he'll keep the ball moving and create more chances for our strikers. Mulumbu and Tettey is a massive step up as a screening duo from what we've previously had in the Premier League (Tettey and Johnson), although I fancy Neil will only play them next to each other against the big sides. Mulumbu’s injury is a right bugger – he looked great in pre-season, but as long as Tettey’s knees hold up we should be ok against the weaker sides in the first 10 games.

Anyway, moving on… Who do you think's likely to finish below us (if anyone)?

Jon: Bit unfair on Russ – being either short or not fast. I'm not his biggest fan, but he’s clearly respected and a consistent player. Not that I don’t think we need a towering central defender. I’ve seen Virgil van Dijk at Celtic play a few times and I’d love him at the club. He stood out before, and would be ideal signing. Worth putting £10m on; it’s an investmen.

As for teams who will struggle. Tricky to say.

Watford are too mishmash for me. Ten or 11 signings is too many. Leicester – new manager is a good thing but it’s Claudio Ranieri so...  Sunderland struggle each year. Villa have lost their spine and that's a blow for them (and hilarious for everyone else).

What to you think of Bournemouth? If they get a couple of spankings and get bullied into not playing their passing game, I can see them crumbling. I don't know. Total wild card.

Dan: Think Bournemouth are more resilient than that, and they've added real quality with Max Gradel. I would say they're missing a proper midfield enforcer, which is crucial in the Premier League, but Sylvain Distin adds experience to the back four. Plus I totally love Eddie Howe – wanted him at Norwich after Hughton was sacked, and Bournemouth remind me of Norwich under Lambert. Dodgy defense, attacking midfield.

Think Leicester will struggle without Pearson. Although an oddball, the players clearly responded to him, and they've also lost Esteban Cambiasso. Watford have bought some good players – Etienne Capoue and Valon  Behrami – but, as you say, signing 10 or 11 suggests they don't quite know what they want. Villa will either be relegated or Tim Sherwood will sacked at Christmas. Impossible to say how West Ham will go under Slaven Bilic, and with the distraction of Europe they might struggle in the league. While I think everyone just really, really hopes Sunderland are finally relegated.

So, let's finish with some quick questions.

First off, who is your key player for Norwich? Mine is Lewis Grabban. Has the makings of a really good lone striker in the Premier League – and I think Neil will be playing one up top most games. Can see him doing a Charlie Austin or Danny Ings (and let's ignore that both of their clubs were relegated). If we sign Dieumrci Mbokani then I don’t think he’ll go straight into the side, so Grabban will get the first few games to really impress.

Jon: Bradley Johnson. He is a different player than he was two years ago – the one I used to mock for killing people in row z. I think fans need to stop thinking of him as a defensive midfielder and think of him as a attacking left-sided type in the mould of, dare say it, James Milner. Hard-working, strong, aggressive. If he keeps that competitive edge and keeps sprinting in at the back post he'll get more goals like the ones against Ipswich, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday.

Or he'll kill more people in row z.

Dan: Uh oh. You went there, didn't you. Johnson was magnificent last season, and was brilliant at ghosting in at the back post (Redmond could learn from him there), but I just don't think he's good enough on the ball for the Premier League. I expect Brady (or even Odjidja-Ofoe if he starts working harder) to play on the left of midfield ahead of him.

Anyway. Next quick question: Who's Norwich's weak link? I'm going Russell Martin. Decent at right-back, and improved at centre-back since Seb Bassong's return, but he gets beaten in the air too often and gives the ball away too much from the back. If he's a regular in central defence this season then we're in trouble.

Jon: Defensively? Nathan Redmond... as much magic and joy he brings to the final third, he also brings holes in the defensive third. There just needs to be a stronger balance as there's a good chance we are going to be doing a lot of defending this year. He needs to tighten up, become aggressive and work extra hard to help whoever will be at right-back.

And stop pointing at the sky after scoring. The man in that blimp won’t help...

Dan: Ok, penultimate quickie: What starting XI would you like for this season?

Mine: Ruddy; Whittaker, Wisdom, Bassong, Olsson; Tettey/Howson, Mulumbu; Redmond, Hoolahan, Brady; Grabban

I'm cheating a bit with Howson or Tettey, but it depends on opposition. I'd like to see Howson in against the weaker sides and Tettey when we need to be more defensive (obviously this depends on Mulumbu’s recovery). I'd also like Wisdom at centre-back rather than right-back if we don't get another central defender in.

Jon: Cheating a bit!? That’s 13 players on the pitch (Wes counts for two).

Mine: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Toffolo; Howson, Mulumbu, Johnson, Hoolahan, Brady; Jerome

You and I have a difference of opinion with Grabban – looking forward to seeing who is right throughout the season. Honestly, hope you are.

I think "There's No Such Thing As A..." deserves a chance while Olsson is out. He is always looking to get forward and whip balls in which is encouraging.

Still think we need a Martin replacement and a Jerome replacement, and a Whittaker replacement. But...Hey Ho. Let’s Go.

Dan: So the final question(s): Where will Norwich finish, name the bottom three and who will be champions?

I'm saying it all depends on a) whether Wisdom plays CB and is good or b) whether we get another, top CB in. If yes, then I think we'll be OK. Our midfield is top-half Premier League quality, and that should be enough to keep us up as long as we aren't conceding every game.

My bottom three are: Watford (too many signings, completely new way of playing), Leicester (won't score enough goals), Sunderland (because it's just about bloody time).

Champions: Chelsea. Very hard to defend a title, but they have the best squad. Think Man Utd will push them very close this season though, and any regular injuries to Diego Costa might just let them in.

Jon: OK. Just got a feeling – we’ll be slightly not good enough and Norwich will finish 18th.

But think of it this way. It’s Christmas Eve and you’re expecting a Tamagotchi but on Christmas Day you get a moped, all the Teenage Hero Turtles figures, two Furbys AND eight Tamagotchis. It will make staying up even more exciting for me.

Going down? Watford. Aaand Villa. Oh yes.

Winners? Man Utd. Interesting signings, especially in midfield.

A public announcement: this season we’ll be previewing each Norwich match through the power of an email exchange between us and a fan or journalist from the opposition. On Friday Dan and deputy sport’s editor – and Crystal Palace fan – Ed Malyon will be email-previewing the first match of the season. Will contain gratuitous references to Alan Pardew and possible arguments about Cameron Jerome.